135 B- POLEVOI
had been interrupted by the war was maturing more and
more. He read those lines with longing and anxiety,
knowing that he had no right to reciprocate.
Schoolmates, who had attended the apprenticeship
school at the sawmill together, they had been filled with
romantic sentiments which they had called love just to
imitate grownups. Later, they had parted for six or seven
years. First the girl went away to study at the technical
school. When she returned to the sawmill as a mechanic,
Alexei had already left the town and was studying at
the aviation school. They met again just before the
outbreak of the war. Neither had sought that meeting,
and they had probably even forgotten each other—so
much water had flowed under the bridge since their part-
ing. One evening Alexei was in the street accompanying
his mother somewhere and a girl passed them. He paid
no attention to the girl except that he noticed that she
had well-shaped legs.
"Why didn't you greet the girl? It was Olya!" his
mother reproved him, mentioning the girl's surname.
Alexei looked back. The girl too had turned round to
look back. Their eyes met and Alexei felt his heart skip.
Leaving his mother, he ran towards the girl, who had
halted under a bare poplar-tree.
"You?" he exclaimed in surprise, looking at her as if
she were a rare and beautiful creature from overseas who
had in some strange way appeared in this quiet, muddy
street on this spring evening.
"Alyosha?" exclaimed the girl in the same surprised
and incredulous tone.
They saw each other for the first time after a separa-
tion of six or seven years. Alexei saw before him a girl
of miniature proportions, a graceful and supple figure
with a pretty, round, boyish face and a few golden
freckles on the bridge of her nose. She looked at him
with large, grey, sparkling eyes, slightly raising her
softly traced eyebrows that were somewhat bushy at the
ends. There was little about this fresh, graceful girl of
the sturdy, round-faced, rosy-cheeked, rather rough child,
walking proudly in her father's greasy jacket with the
sleeves rolled up, that she had been at the time they had
last met at the apprenticeship school.